Saint Demetrios Orthodox Monastery
Christmas Season, 2022
We wish you joy in the celebration of the great feast of the Nativity of the Lord, and His Theophany. This is a time to give thanks to God for His great mercy toward us, that He sent His only begotten Son into the world for us and for our salvation. He came into the world, and He emptied himself of all the prerogatives of His divinity, in the most profound humility. Born in a cave and laid in a manger, in utter obscurity to the world, yet hymned by the angels and worshiped by the Magi who read His birth in the stars. He assumed the totality of our humanity, and became what we are, that He might make us what He is. He accepted to be a child, an adolescent, and a young man, and coming to the age of full manhood He accepted to be baptized by John in the Jordan and began the ministry that changed the world forever.
We not only celebrate the fact that a child was born in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago, or that he was baptized and became a celebrated prophetic preacher. We celebrate Him, the incarnate God, who revealed God to us in human form, and as the Word of God gave us the words of God to raise us to heaven.
Whenever we celebrate the Divine Liturgy, we commemorate His birth and His baptism, His incarnation, and His Passion. We do so by coming together in His Name, gathered by His Spirit into one Body, His Body, so that as our Great High Priest He might lead us in the worship of the Father. We stand before Him with the armies of angels and archangels, before the Cherubic Throne where He is co-enthroned with the Father and the Spirit, offering the eternal thanksgiving for the whole creation, and sending down on it and on us the grace of the Spirit. He sits with the Father on the Throne in the flesh He took from the Virgin, recapitulating the created order in Himself. He was laid in the manger as on the heavenly Altar, He who offers and is offered. He is surrounded by animals in the cave, as by hosts of angels in heaven. In that flesh He was baptized in the Jordan River and was crucified and rose from the dead. He thus will become the ultimate fulfillment of the creation itself at His Second Coming, the embodiment of the whole cosmos, the King of the Kingdom, bearing the Cross as the scepter.
In celebrating Christmas, we not only sing “Glory to God in the Highest” with the angels over Bethlehem but join in the eternal Liturgy singing with them “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts, heaven and earth are full of Thy Glory!” Christmas is the cosmic thanksgiving for the great dispensation of God for the transfiguration of all creation, and of the salvation He has so freely given us. We indeed join with the angels and saints and all the company of heaven, saying “Hosanna in the Highest! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord.”
Life in the Monastery of St Demetrios
Life in the monastery goes on apace, the liturgical cycle carries us along and marks and sanctifies the passage of time. We have had some brothers come and go, but mostly, they come: there are now about fifteen living in the monastery, plus our usual complement of guests.
Our brotherhood has many and varied tasks. Metropolitan Jonah, the abbot, is also the Rector of St Herman’s Church in Stafford, which is burgeoning with many new people; and he continues to teach for Holy Trinity Seminary, the Midwest Pastoral School, and several other classes. Fr Aidan is serving at St Anna’s, an outreach mission in Louisa, Virginia, officially a chapel of the Monastery. Fr Silouan, now a Hieromonk, has established a mission center in Kampala, Uganda, where he is stationed. His goal is to prepare African leaders for the African Church. Hierodeacon Mark remains a math teacher in Stafford and serves in many capacities at St Herman’s. Fr Andrew operates behind the scenes, supporting the community with many labors. There are several novices: Brothers Michael, Andrew, Christos, Benjamin, Anthony, Paisios; and postulants: Michael, Anthony, John, Kyrylo, Nicholas. Please remember us in your prayers! Fr Silouan is in Uganda, and Fr Mark has his own house, but are both part of the brotherhood. There are several other men who want to come and join us.
We are working diligently to get this monastery going. It is a huge task, financially, especially since we have completely outgrown the building which we bought two years ago. The house has nine bedrooms. So, we have six men in bunks… Then there are visitors. These are good problems to have. We have begun the search for a new facility. We are unable to expand adequately at the current house, and we have already maxed out our septic system.
One of the big issues with our current facility is that we lack workspace. We need to develop a main industry for our brotherhood which will generate adequate income. We are most grateful for donations. However, the goal is to use the donations only for capital expenditures—buildings, vehicles, particular projects. As St Paul tells us, we need to support ourselves by the work of our own hands. Currently, we do this by working outside the monastery, but this is a mixed blessing, as it immerses the brothers back into the world. Our bookstore is the beginning of an internal industry, with some handicrafts from the brothers and our own books, plus stock from other publishers. But our space is very limited!
Our 2023 goal is to acquire a new property for the monastery.
The plan is to acquire our permanent location. We are looking for the donation of an existing monastery or retreat center on substantial acreage, perhaps from the Catholic Church. We will need cells for at least 25 men, a chapel, large trapeza and commercial kitchen, library and offices, workspace, bookstore, and space to expand. We will need space for gardens and some minor agriculture. We need to develop a guest/retreat house, with twenty or so rooms, meeting rooms, and some kitchen facilities. The guest/retreat house will be the main income producing business for the monastery, with a combination of a bunk house, retreat motel-style rooms, and some VIP rooms. This follows the pattern of the monasteries in Europe.
This will undoubtedly be a financial challenge. Two of us were able to qualify for the loan for the Catharpin property. This will not likely be the case for a much larger property. Thus, we will be seeking your assistance with the financing, both in terms of donations, but also regarding any connections with those who could provide such a donation. It is likely to cost between $3-5million dollars. St Demetrios Monastery has become a reality through the synergy of the brotherhood with our many friends and supporters. We need to make the next step to enable this seed to grow in an adequate facility, and into a mature community.
The Ministry of the Monastery
Why support St Demetrios Monastery? So that we can fulfill our vision to create a Christian community of people who love one another, in accordance with the Gospel and living by the Gospel. The way we put our faith into action is by love of the brethren. We try to foster a community that lives as a big family structured by the basic disciplines of the spiritual life and the liturgical cycles. This kind of environment of love heals the soul and enables people to live authentically as Christians.
The Novitiate, being a novice, is a spiritual formation program. We have had many young men in their early 20’s that have had a chance to learn Orthodoxy by living the faith through the liturgical services, spiritual direction, study and instruction, and a disciplined life in Christian community. During this time, there have been some older and well experienced men come into the community as well. While the young ones are mainly seekers and tend to stay for a while and move on, my hope is that they learn a lot about themselves and about the Faith. This is an important ministry. Ours is a time when young men are in real crisis, and seeking a context to develop and grow, with values that will strengthen them as men, and give them a vision for their future. Some may remain in the monastic life, others (most) move on to get married and have a family. This spiritual formation is a good preparation for either way of life. The Faith gives them hope and meaning for their lives. The discipline gives them a sense of accomplishment so that they have the ability to accomplish their goals. The work gives them a sense of the value and sanctity of work. Most of all, the goal is that they come through this experience with the knowledge that they are loved, are valuable, and can love others in an unselfish way.
Mature men who come to the monastery are, in a sense, much easier. They don’t tend to bounce off the walls with youthful exuberance. Rather, they are more focused and more stable, have had experiences in life that have shaped them (one way or another), and they know their abilities and their limits, and thus are more realistic. They tend to have a single-minded resolve to live this life of repentance, and allow God to transform them through the spiritual discipline. While the youths bring lots of energy, the more mature men bring the patience and perseverance that is necessary to actualize that transformation. Each one contributes to the whole according to his unique gifts. Together we work towards the establishment of St Demetrios as a monastery that can make a difference in the lives of Orthodox Christians.
While the primary ministry of the monastery is to its own members, we also reach out and support other Orthodox communities and missions. We have a constant stream of guests, and many friends who come and join us for Liturgy on Saturdays, and other services and events. We try to be a spiritual support through confession and counsel, as a refuge from the world for a day or a week, and through teaching in person and on video. We serve two parish churches primarily, St Herman’s in Stafford and St Anna’s in Louisa, as well as reach out to other parishes in our area, and the ROCOR Western Rite communities.
Our monastery has two associated communities, St Anthony’s in Phoenix (“Little St Anthony’s) a small urban community in a neighborhood in Phoenix, with Hieromonk Hilarion and one brother, Marin. This came to us with the repose of schema-Igumen Anthony, previously Bessarion, who died at this time last year in 2021. We also have a link with a wonderful community in Kapa’au, Hawaii, the Na Pua Li’i Hermitage, with Fr Columba and two elderly nuns. They were long term medical missionaries in Haiti, and in (involuntary) retirement were able to find a place in Hawai’I, where they have am organic farm that produces turmeric, and 30 other fruits and vegetables. They do almost all the work themselves, despite their age, and live a life of stillness.
We have also developed a wonderful friendship with the “other” St Demetrios Monastery in Framingham, Massachusetts, under the guidance of Igumen Savvatiy. There are four monks there in a large house church, living the monastic life with an Athonite typicon, and services primarily in Slavonic. Met. Jonah was asked to ordain two members of the community, Fr Joseph as deacon and priest, and Vasili, a close friend of the brotherhood, to be a deacon and serve the parish community. The monks all had close connections with Elder Ephraim. They are in the Moscow Patriarchate and are just building a new temple.
Over the summer Met. Jonah went to Butte, Montana for the “Montanika” conference, where 150 young men, and a few women, came to hear talks on traditional Orthodox Christian values and life style. Met. Jonah and Abbot Tryphon, our old and great friend, gave the keynote talks, with other excellent talks as well. The conference was hosted by Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, in their beautiful temple up against the mountains. The original church was consecrated by St Tikhon. The conference demonstrates the desire for fellowship and instruction in the Orthodox Faith.
Next summer, we are planning a men’s conference in August in Butte, entitled “Your brother is your life.” It will deal with the issues young men face in contemporary society, including facing one’s own brokenness, the nature and tradition of Friendship between men in Orthodox culture, and healing the soul from the passions. The main speakers will be Abbot Tryphon, Fr Hans Jacobse and Metropolitan Jonah, and several others. It is being organized by Fr Dn. Ananias Sorem. We hope that it will draw people from all jurisdictions across the western part of the country (Easterners are welcome too!). More info will be forthcoming. We are hoping to be able to visit the site of a prospective monastery near Butte, St Peter’s, and coordinate a work party there.
The Monastery bookstore is expanding its scope. Not only is there a fine selection of books from most of the Orthodox publishers, but we also have icons and some liturgical jewelry. This is being expanded through the extensive contacts of one brother with Georgia, where we will be marketing some of their goods. He is experienced in organizing and leading tours in Georgia, as well. We have a small initial tour to monasteries this May, time yet to be determined, where a few men (no more than 4) will accompany Met. Jonah and our Br Kyrylo. Then in the autumn we are hoping for a tour with a larger mixed group. These should be quite affordable, and more pilgrimage than tourist trip. And there will be a chance for shopping there… Watch the Monastery website for more information.